The Chronology: Page-25
AdlerTag (Eagle Day) Begins
|TUESDAYAUGUST 13th 1940|
FIGHTER COMMAND SECTOR STATIONS AT THIS TIME [ Document-30]
WEATHER:Early morning low cloud base, rain easing during morning but clearing toa fine day with lengthy sunny periods by afternoon.
Göring's heralded'Eagle Day' was launched in confusion on 13th August, renewed inmassive strength by a staff officer's unauthorized decision on 15 August,and thereafter continued in fierce fighting into September.
If the Luftwaffehad learned something during the last few months it was that Britain had'eyes' out there that detected their fighter and bomber formations comingacross the Channel. Many of their convoy attacks had either to be abortedor they were attacked by British fighters before they had a chance to rendezvouswith the target. The Germans knew of radar, in fact they had a radar systemof their own, but in the late thirties when radio direction finding wasin its infancy, Britain continued with experiments and made full use ofthe fact that electronics could warn them of any impending attack, whereasGermany decided not to follow it through.
They thereforehad to destroy these seeing 'eyes' of Britain before any idea of a majorattack on British cities could be made otherwise half of there bombersand fighter escorts would be wiped out before they could reach their targets.An alternative to this was to let their heavy bombers fly in across theChannel at low altitudes so that they flew below the radar beams. But thiswas a tricky method of operation and only specially trained crews couldaccomplish this low altitude flying. Another problem was that fighter escortwas very ineffective at low altitudes so these low altitude missions meantthat the bombers only means of defence was trying to remain unobserved,a very tricky situation.
But the attackson the radar stations at Dover, Pevensey and Rye the previous day, althoughtemporarily put out of action, emergency back up systems allowed all thesestations to be 'back on the air' within six hours. Ventnor radar was themain problem as it had been hit hard and was the main radar in the Portsmouth/Southamptonarea.
The way wasnow clear for them to implement Adlerangriff.
Before we continue with August13th, let us take a look at the Order of Battle of August 8th [ Document-31 ],and how it had changed since the Order of Battle of July. 11 Group had been given additional strength by moving more squadrons from the north to reinforce those that were already in the south. Some squadrons had been been rested and sent to Scotland and they were replaced by other squadrons from 12 Group.
When Göringfirst made his announcement to Luftflotte (Air Fleets) 2, 3 and5 that Operation Adler (Eagle) would commence and that they wouldwipe the British Air Force from the sky in early August, the message wasquickly deciphered and was in the hands of the British Chiefs of Staff, the Prime Minister and Hugh Dowding within an hour indicating that Adlerangriff(Eagle day) would commence on August 10th. but because of the unfavourableweather conditions was delayed until now, August 13th
But it seemedthat the weather had not heard of the Göring plan of attack. Insteadof the fair to good weather conditions that were predicted, the morningof the 13th loomed very overcast with low cloud over the Frenchcoast and Channel.
0510hrs:The German bombers began to take off from various airfields and the firstmajor assault on Britain was about to begin. Most of them were airborneand were beginning to form their respective formations, when a last minutemessage was sent to all units that this first assault had been postponed,and that all aircraft were to return to their bases. The message was notreceived by the 74 Dornier bombers of KG 2 led by Oberst Johannes Fink,and he was to be escorted by 60 Bf110's of ZG 26 commanded by OberstleutnantJoachim Huth. The weather started to deteriorate further, the forecasthad been for clear and fine conditions but a blanket of low cloud coveredboth the French and the English coasts and the order went out for Angriffbeschrankin (Attack Canceled) owing to the weather, with the possibilityof a resumption in the afternoon should the weather clear. This messagewas received by Huth, who relayed the message to the rest of his 60 fighter-bombers.However, Fink's Dornier had a malfunction in its long-range radio thathe did not know about and was therefore unaware that the operation hadbeen canceled. To compact the situation, there was no radio communicationbetween the Bf110's and the Dorniers, and as the bombers were flying inheavy cloud Fink's Dorniers did not realize that the Me 110's had returnedto base. Approaching the English coast, the Dorniers broke up into twoseparate formations. One headed for Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppy, whilethe other headed towards the Coastal Command station at Eastchurch.
0557hrs: Itdoes appear that the radar stations at Dover and Rye that were now backin action, had detected and followed the progress of the Dornier formation,but as to the final destination of the Dorniers no one knew or could estimatetheir target. The formation had taken a wide berth around the Kent coast,then entered the Thames Estuary where a number of targets would be availableto them. The Observer Corps at Bromley asked of Fighter Commands liaisonofficer, "Have we a large number of aircraft forming near Rochford?". Theimmediate reply from HQ was a definite 'No'.
0630hrs: Radar had also pickedup an enemy formation coming in from the Channel between Hastings and Bognorand Fighter Command dispatched 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes), 64 SquadronKenley (Spitfires), 87 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Tangmere(Hurricanes) . 601 Squadron head east towards their vectored position gainingheight when a formation of Ju88s who's mission was to bomb the aerodromesat Odiham and Farnborough (Hants) are spotted on their port side.
0640hrs: P/O H.C.Mayer's whois leading "A" Flight of 601 Squadron reports a tiered formation of Bf109sand Bf110s at high altitude, and orders his flight to gain position andattack the bombers.
The Ju88 that P/O Mayer's shot down couldpossibly have been attacked by Sgt. Hallowes of 43 Squadron. The Ju88,from 1/KG54 crashed and exploded at Treyford with the pilot's body neverbeing found and the other two crew members being captured after balingout of the aircraft. Another Ju88 was shot down by both 601 and 43 Squadronsand crashed near Arundel (Sussex) while another Ju88 which came under firefrom the Hurricanes of 601 Squadron aborted the mission early after itsengines began giving trouble. Two Hurricanes of 43Squadron were shot down with F/Lt T.P.Dalton-Morgan baling out of his aircraftand being wounded and P/O C.A.Woods- Scawen escaping from his burning Hurricaneafter it crash landed. One of the aircrew baled out of a Ju88 thinkingthe worst was going to happen and landed in a field in the region of Tangmere.He was captured and taken to the aerodrome.
87 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) wasalso dispatched to intercept the formation but being scrambled late arrivedafter the Ju88s had decided to return to France, but they did intercepta lone Ju88 about 0800hrs south of Chichester and in the ensuingcombat, one Hurricane was hit by gunfire from the enemy bomber and crashedsouth of Selsey Bill. Other Hurricanes of 87 Squadron continued the combatwith the Ju88 receiving damage and crashing into the Channel.
0645hrs:74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), under the command of "Sailor" Malan,were ordered to patrol the Thames Estuary as a precautionary measure. Theradar stations at Dover and Pevensey, not being at 100% strength becauseof the previous days bombing could not give a definite fix only to say'that we are definitely picking up a signal' and any fix could only beestimated. As the Dorniers were using the low cloud as cover, the ObserverCorps had difficulty in locating any formation. At 0655hrs, enoughenemy aircraft could be seen coming out of the cloud to confirm that anenemy formation was coming in from the Thames Estuary and flying in a westerlydirection.
0702hrs:The call went out again from Bromley. this time with a definite report"Raid 45 is bombing the Eastchurch drome." Park released 111 Squadron Croydon(Hurricanes) and vectored them towards Sheppy.
By this time, 74Squadron had located the Dorniers between Whitstable and Margate and managedto dive in to attack the rearward section of the enemy formation. A numberof Dorniers peeled off and trued to get back into the cloud cover. Theforward section of the German formation continued and completed their bombingattack on Eastchurch believing it to be one of Fighter Commands stations.Considerable damage was done. Two hangars were severely damaged. The operationsroom received a direct hit, and a number of Blenheims of 35 Squadron CoastalCommand were destroyed. German records state that 10 Spitfires had beendestroyed that were at Eastchurch, but RAF records indicate that only onewas damaged and that it was able to be repaired. (266 Squadron [Spitfires]had been using Eastchurch at the time)
0720hrs:The bombing of Eastchurch had finished, and the German bombers turned andheaded for home. But the clouds had started to disperse and now they wereflying with brilliant sunshine. Kenley had scrambled 111 Squadron (Hurricanes)based at Croydon to intercept the bombers, but not in time to divert theattack away from Eastchurch. 151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) were also dispatched. With no fighter escort, the Dorniers were like sittingducks. 111 squadron claimed four Dorniers, while one of the canon equippedHurricanes of 151 Squadron damaged another. One of the Dorniers had crashedand its crew captured and taken prisoner. Fink himself made it back tohis base at Arras and was fuming that he had been allowed to continue theraid without proper fighter cover, and that because of no proper communicationhe had five of his bombers shot down and a further five so badly damagedthat three of them were beyond repair.
On returning toArras, Fink circled the airfield then made a slow and gentle touchdown.But on alighting from his plane, he stormed towards the operations roomand immediately grappled for a telephone and demanded a priority link toKesselring's Cap Blanc Nez HQ. It was only a few days earlier that GeneralfeldmarschallAlbert Kesselring had given them a lecture on Channel crossings, combatand safety. Fink felt that what had happened that day was sheer criminalnegligence on the part of High Command. It was this negligence that hadcost him five valuable crews, a total of twenty experienced and highlytrained men, either killed or possibly taken prisoner.
He spoke to Kesselring personally, and constantly raised his voice in a manner thatdid not worry him that he was talking to a person of higher authority."Where the hell were those dammed fighters then, just tell me that." Kesselringdone his best to calm down the irate Fink, but all that happened was thatFink grew even angrier.
Butalthough there was good weather in the Thames Estuary, it was not as goodover the Channel and more confusion was experienced by the Luftwaffe inan effort to get Adlerangriff started.
This was just another case of errorsin German intelligence. As in the raid in the Thames Estuary, Sheernessand Eastchurch were not Fighter Command airfields, neither were Odihamand Farnborough. Farnborough being an airfield of the Royal Aircraft Establishment.These errors came about because of the fact that German Intelligence reliedon older ordinance survey maps of England and were trying to bring themup to date with information brought back by reconnaissance aircraft. Badanalysis of the situation and poor interpretation meant that they did nothave a complete picture of the overall situation.
1140hrs: A build up of a small formation was picked up by radar off the French coastoff Cherbourg. It turns out to be 20+ Bf110s who were to escort Ju88s ofKG54 on a raid on Portland Harbour. KG54 had received the message thatthe raid had been canceled and they returned to their base, but the messagewas not conveyed to 1/ZG2 and the Bf110s continued their path across theChannel.
1230hrs: 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes)engaged the Bf110s and a one sided air battle commenced. 1/ZG2 lost fiveBf110s in quick succession and what was left aborted any raid on Portlandand headed for the safety of the French coast. 43 Squadron had one Hurricanedamaged, while 601 Squadron lost one Hurricane, that of P/O H.C.Mayerswho baled out of his damaged aircraft with injuries to his legs. Whiledangling from his parachute, a Bf110 fires a short burst at him bu missesand P/O Mayer's lands in the Channel. Two other Hurricanes of 601 Squadronare damaged, but manage to return to base.
Word had got around to the Luftwaffe airfields that Adlerangriff had been postponeduntil the weather became more favourable. But this was quickly thwartedwhen the order went out at:
1300hrs: that Eagle Day was definitely "on" and that because of a weather improvementthere would be considerable bomber and dive bomber attacks on a large scaleon the British airfields across the southern portion of England. It appearedthat the German plan was to make simultaneous attacks from Weymouth toPortland, Southampton and Portsmouth, and targets in north Kent.
1500hrs: A number of formations were detected off of the French coast near Cherbourgand from the direction of the Channel Islands. The information was conveyedto Fighter Command HQ. They watched the WAAFs push and pull the enemy markersacross the board with their long rakes. The command HQ at 10 Group wasinformed and from here a number of squadrons were brought to readiness.Park at 11 Group was also informed of the situation as his squadrons atTangmere and Westhampnett may be called in to provide assistance shouldthe enemy formation turn and head towards Southampton.
1510hrs: 10 Group headquarters brings the following squadrons to readiness. 152Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires), 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes), 238 SquadronMiddle Wallop (Hurricanes) and 609 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires).11 Group brought 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) to readiness. The largeformation is detected heading in a straight line towards Portland, butthey were still far enough out over the Channel to alter course and headfor various selected targets. The squadrons of Fighter Command lie in wait.
1530hrs: The large formation is now on radar just out from the Dorset coastand was approaching to the west of the Isle of Wight. It seemed as if thiswas to be a massive attack, and the German formations were heading in thedirection of Portsmouth and Southampton. As predicted, the formations werenow broken into groups, and consisted of 120 plus Ju88s from KG 54 andLG 1, these were escorted by 40 plus Bf109s from V/LG 1 that were comingin from the western end of the Channel. To the east came 77 Ju 87s fromII/StG 2 and StG 77 and were escorted by 50 plus Bf109s from JG 27. Flyingslightly ahead of the bomber formations were 35 Bf109s of II/JG 53. Thiswas a total of about 450 German aircraft that was approaching the Englishcoast.
First to bereleased were 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires) and 213 Squadron Exeter(Hurricanes) who were vectored to a position west of the Isle of Wightover the Solent. Soon after, one by one the other squadrons are "scrambled".152 Squadron are first on the scene and engage a formation of Bf109s andwithin a few minutes are joined by 213 Squadron Exeter (Spitfires). Betweenthem, they engage the full force of the Bf109s and Bf110s and in the ensuingcombat draw the German escorts away from the Ju88 bombers. But the Bf109sare in that critical stage of fuel shortage, the long haul across the Channeland now in combat situation they had to conserve fuel for the return journeyhome.
1600hrs: With the weather improving the first of the Ju88 bombers crossed the coastand set course for Southampton. 609 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires)engaged the bombers but were swooped on by the Bf109s who could engagecombat for only a few minutes before turning back because of their fuelsituation. It appears that Fighter Command were getting to realize thatcoming across this wider part of the Channel, the Bf109s had restrictedtime to engage combat because they would only have enough fuel for thereturn journey back to base.
This now allowed 609 Squadron to attack the bombers. They found the Ju88s and some Ju87sbelow them and an escort of Bf109s just above the Stukas. To the west,another group of Bf109s were involved in a dogfight with 238 Squadron MiddleWallop (Hurricanes).
1605hrs:The Ju88s that continued managed to do considerable damage to Southamptondocks and to the city itself before continuing on to Andover airfield whichthey mistook for Middle Wallop, where again they done a fair amount ofdamage. The formation was allowed to continue to Andover free of RAF fighterattacks because 609 Squadron had to return to Middle Wallop because theywere low on fuel and ammunition. But, nearing base, they made contact witha formation of Ju87s that were in fact heading for Middle Wallop as well,but with different intentions to that of 609 Squadron. (Some reportsstate that the aircraft that attacked Andover and Middle Wallop were Ju88sthat had just prior bombed Southampton)
Being close to the airfield, it was possible for 609 to engage combat. The Ju87s whohad lost its Me 109 escort were vulnerable to the Spitfires and they tooaborted their attack and Middle Wallop escaped unscathed.
1630hrs:The Ju88s of KG 54 that were coming in from the west made their attackon Portland, but as they were making their approach they were interceptedby 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires), 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes)and 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes), many of the bombers were damagedbut some got through and dropped bombs on Portland causing minor damage.The bombers seemed to make for Southampton after the attack on Portland,but the RAF fighters were swarming in front of them and forced them toabandon any further attack and they headed out to the open Channel andhome to base.
Although the RAF lost a number of fighters in this combat, it was obvious that the Luftwaffehad lost an even greater number, mainly due to the fact that the fighterescorts had to return back to their bases because of the fuel situation,this paved the way for the RAF fighters to attack the Stukas and the heavierbombers who were now at their mercy.
1700hrs:another sighting was made of a formation of enemy aircraft coming in acrossthe Channel. This seemed to be made up of two separate formations. Thelarger coming across the coast near Dungeness that were identified as Ju87sfrom II/StG I, while a smaller group came in over Dover, these were identifiedas Ju87s of IV(St) LGI with both groups escorted by Me 109s.
56 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) were dispatched to intercept. No sooner had theystarted to disperse the Stukas, when they were suddenly attacked by theMe 109s. The Hurricanes then started to mix it with the German fightersallowing the Ju87s to continue veering north towards the Thames Estuary.One Hurricane from 56 Squadron North Weald received damage and althoughmanaging to stay airborne, was losing height and trailing smoke. He eventuallymade a pancake landing at Hawkinge.
The Ju 87s were making for Rochester in north Kent. The target here was the Short Brothersaircraft factory but had difficulty in finding the target so decided toreturn to their base. In their plans of attack, it was the Luftwaffe intentionnow to hit the RAF on the ground as well as in the air, and the Ju 87sof IV/LG 1 were instructed to bomb Detling airfield just outside Rochester.Here some of the Me 109 fighter escort broke away from combat with 56 Squadronto provide cover for the Ju87s. 56 Squadron was instructed to follow the109s and some of the Hurricanes made attacks on Ju 87s as well as the Me109s over the target airfield.
1716hrs: Coming in from the Thames Estuary, following the Kent coastline past theseaside towns of Margate and Whitstable, past the Isle of Sheppy then animmediate turn to port into the River Medway and and once past the unmistakablecity of Rochester and Detling lies just beyond. Although not belongingto Fighter Command, Detling would present itself as an impressive target.A large expanse of open airfield.
Detling was badlydamaged in the attack. The operations block was totally destroyed, mostof the hangars were completely flattened and all the contents destroyed.A total of 68 airmen in the station mess hall were killed as it scoreda direct hit, the fuel dump exploded in flames, the Commanding Officerof the station was killed instantly by the entrance of the HQ building,and a number of Blenheims that had been bombed up and ready for the eveningsmission exploded destroying them completely. But again, this wasanother blunder by Luftwaffe Intelligence who had reported Detling as amajor British airfield. But Detling was only a Coastal Command airfieldthat was used for look-out and observation patrols for German naval vesselsand the occasional air-sea rescue and was not a Fighter Command airfield.This was really a wasted effort by the Luftwaffe the only bright side totheir mission was that they did not lose any aircraft in the Detling attack,but 56 Squadron (North Weald) although three pilots escaped injury andone baled out with severe burns, they lost four Hurricanes.
The 13thAugust could only be summed up as a total disaster for the Luftwaffe.We know of three occasions where communications had broken down allowingthe attackers to be hit at will by the RAF because missions were incomplete.This naturally led to the Luftwaffe sustaining a great number of casualties.And the blunder by German Intelligence regarding Detling as mentioned,was a complete waste of time, and again because of the high casualty ratewas also a waste of valuable aircraft and pilots. The total for the daywas that the Luftwaffe had lost some 53 aircraft (another referencestates that this figure was only 34) and nearly two hundred aircrew,while although not including the 68 airmen killed at Detling, the RAF lost15 fighter aircraft and miraculously only three pilots were killed, butit was still a day of intense fighting.
Dowding said of this day '....it's a miracle'. He had been looking back on the daysevents and considered that it had been very busy all round, and that thefifteen planes that had been lost would be very easily replaced. Adlerangriffwas to be an all out attack on the RAF and its fighter bases, but as yetall the wrong targets had been hit, causing no immediate concern to FighterCommand.
From Keith Park's view:
'No one could befoolish enough to think that we can send in any amount of fighters againstthe large formations that the Luftwaffe were sending across the Channeland not receive any casualties' he said, 'but with careful placement ofmy squadrons it is hoped that we can keep this to a minimum.' He had toldhis squadron commanders on many an occasion, that no-one is going to wina game of chess without losing any of his pieces, it's just that with somegames, you lose more than you do with others. Park too was satisfied withthe outcome of August 13th, he kept the German fighters at bay over theChannel and close to the English coast and by comparison with the previousday, his casualties were light with only three killed or missing, two thatsustained injuries that were to put them out of action for a while andsix returning to their squadrons after being shot down.
2200hrs: August 13th was not finished yet. major towns, cities, factories andthe rail network became the target of the German night bombers. The ShortBrothers aircraft factory in Belfast in Ireland, and at Castle Bromwichwhere the new Spitfire Mk II was being produced and other targets were:Aberdeen in Scotland, Liverpool in north west England and Swansea in Walesall became targets, but only reports of 'damage sustained, but only minor'were conveyed to the War Office.
The commencement of Adler Tag was, not for the Luftwaffe a successful one. A combinationof poor weather conditions and a number of 'bungles' on their part didnot even put the RAF to the test. First, the airfields that the Luftwaffewere targeting, Eastchurch, Detling, Odiham and Farnborough were not FighterCommand airfields, during the morning the German bombers lost their fighterescort and during the afternoon a fighter escort had left their Frenchbase without the bombers that they were supposed to escort. Now, Göringwas under the impression that all fighter squadrons in 10, 12 and 13 Groupshad been sent south to 11 Group and informed Luftflotte 5 in Norwayto prepare for attacks on the English north and Scotland as the time wasnow right.